Situated six miles south-east of Derby, the village of Aston-on-Trent lies on Derbyshire’s side of the River Trent, that divides the county from Leicestershire. It has grown considerably in population over recent years and nearly all of its inhabitants of working age commute to work. This has not stopped Aston from developing an excellent community spirit, with a significant number of thriving organizations operating in the village. Fund raising for a large number of causes has been particularly successful over the last few years. The village’s excellent community spirit has led to the ‘Derbyshire Large Village of the Year Award’ being won in both 2002 and 2004.
The area around the present village has been inhabited for centuries; on the south–east side the remains of an Iron Age settlement have been found. Early settlers were attracted by the fertile soil, which led to the 17th century local historian Philip Kinder describing the area as ‘The granary of Derbyshire.’ Aston remained very much of an agricultural village until the 1960s, when modern developments began to take over and farmhouses became private dwellings.
On the north side of the village, the brickyard and plaster pits for many years represented the most important industry other than farming. Most of the older houses in Aston having been built using bricks from the works, which remained in operation until the early 20th century. Production at the plaster pits, situated behind the brickworks, lasted for approximately 150 years before coming to an end between the two World Wars.
In 1940, when German planes were attempting to bomb Rolls-Royce, a decoy set up a short distance from the village by three old age pensioners produced first-rate results. From a small dug-out the men operated a light visible from the air, which the German pilots mistook for their target and released 200 high explosives and incendiary bombs which fell on open land. The pensioners returned elated and unharmed, the only damage being to some greenhouse windows at Shardlow.
Aston historically has close links with Weston-on-Trent, for until the middle of the 17th century the Lords of the Manor were the Roper family who lived at Weston Hall. Financial difficulties led to the sale of the estate to Robert Holden, who set up home at Aston Hall, where the family lived for upwards of 250 years. After passing through the hands of Colonel Winterbottom, the hall was purchased by Nottinghamshire County Council for use as a specialist hospital for patients with learning difficulties. It is no longer a hospital and the hall and administration block have been converted into apartments.
The second most important house in the village used to be Aston Lodge, for many years the home of the Bowden family, who were lace manufacturers. When one of the Bowden’s daughters got married, a red carpet of 400 feet in length was laid from the lodge to the altar steps. The house was taken down in the 1930s and, together with the grounds, has been replaced by a modern development and sports field. All that remains are the water tower and stables, now converted to housing and known as Lodge Mews.
All Saints Church is described by a former rector as ‘a sort of history in stone’. It has a Saxon base, Norman windows and is surmounted by Reformation battlements and pinnacles with various other styles of architecture in between. The oak lych-gate, considered to be one of the best in Derbyshire, was erected in the memory of James Holden, a former Rector of Aston.
The centre of the village has been designated as a Conservation Area, at the heart of which is a triangular block of land, around a small but very attractive village green, on which stands an old pump. It is here that the annual well dressings are held. There are a number of interesting properties around the triangle. Number 16 The Green, with diaper brickwork, unusual for this part of the county, has WCM 1690 on a date-stone and on the opposite side of the road is the former smithy.
There are two shops, including a post office and also two pubs, the Malt Shovel and the White Hart Inn. Further along the road the Old School House, paid for by the Holden’s of Aston Hall, now a private house displays the Holden family crest – a moor cock rising sable. A replacement school has been built, and the Methodist Chapel moved to a new location in 1967. An eye-catching Victorian shelter that once housed a pump, now keeps bus users dry on Derby Road.
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PLACES OF SPECIAL INTEREST IN THE AREA
Shardlow Heritage Centre (Tel. 01332 792334) housed in the old Salt Warehouse, the centre features displays of canal and village life of this historic inland port. Open from Good Friday to the end of October - Weekends and Bank Holidays only, from 12-5pm. Some additional opening and guided walks around Shardlow available – telephone for details.
Elvaston Castle Country Park (Tel. 01332 571342) the first Country Park to be opened in Britain. Set in 200 acres of parkland with an ornamental lake, extensive gardens, stony grottoes, rock archways and many other interesting features. Open daily.
The Donington Grand Prix Collection (Tel. 01332 811027) the world’s largest collection of Grand Prix racing cars. Exhibits from 1900 to the present day detailing the history of motor racing. Open daily.
The Malt Shovel (Tel. 01332 792256) an attractively beamed pub with an ‘L’ shaped lounge dates back to the 19th century. Open daily. Home cooked food served in the evenings Wednesday to Friday, lunchtimes and evenings on Saturdays and lunchtimes only on Sundays.
Canal Bank Tearooms (Tel. 01332 799115) situated on the ground floor of the Old Salt Warehouse by the canal towpath. Light refreshments are served throughout the year on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays. Please check details.
THE DISCOVER DERBYSHIRE AND THE PEAK DISTRICT GUIDE
Provides a wide range of features with heritage trails and detailed countryside walks, through some of the most scenically attractive countryside in the UK.
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An impressive South East Derbyshire walk, visiting
Shardlow, one of the best-preserved inland canal ports in the country, and returning along the towpath of the Trent and Mersey Canal.
Shardlow is a fascinating place to explore, still busy with boats, now used for leisure and not for commerce. The boats range from traditional narrow boats with brightly painted liveries, in summer frequently be-decked with pretty boxes filled with flowers, to pleasure craft of all shapes and sizes.
The enjoyable walk along the canal passes both Shardlow Lock and Aston Lock, every mile marked by a smartly painted canal milepost, recording the distance between Shardlow and Preston Brook.
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